Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Open letter to an "anti-Marian"...

Back in May, I had the honour of attending a seminar delivered by a man by the name of Johnny Lee Clary (JLC). JLC, an ex "Imperial Wizard" of the US branch of the Ku-Klux-Klan, has quite a story to tell himself, and that night he spoke about cults, sects, and how our children and teenagers are vulnerable to their pulls.

I have to admit that I had some apprehensions in attending the evening knowing that JLC, while now being a devout Christian, was not a Catholic. I put my apprehension down to making the mistake of joining an online "Christian" discussion group (I will not name them; I feel no need to as I have forgiven them), and when my Catholicism was knowledge to all, I fell victim to verbal abuse, fallacious claims, veiled remarks, irate argumentation, and a general prejudice and vehement disdain for the faith I followed. Many of that online "community" even went as far as to suggest that I wasn't Christian at all and was indeed part of a global cult. So with this experience going in to JLC's seminar, I was somewhat worried. I have to admit that I had my guard up for a good part of that evening!

Fortunately, JLC's presentation - as well as being very informative, genuine, personal, and inspiring - spoke positively about Catholicism when I approached him later in the evening to thank him for coming out (JLC spends a lot of time in Australia as a preacher and educator). JLC obviously knows his church history very well, and this is key in confronting questions of Catholic Christianity. I felt inspired by God to give JLC my rosary beads, which he accepted graciously. I did have to give JLC a crash course in how to pray the rosary (and I from time to time send him the occassional Youtube instructional video or website), but it was at this point that JLC's taxi driver (let's call him "Thomas" for all intensive purposes) for the evening began to question the Catholic devotion to Mary, the mother of Christ ("Our Lady" as we affectionately call her).

Thomas was not a person that thought so positively of Catholicism; he claimed that he just wanted to know why Catholics have a devotion to Mary, but judging by the kind of looks he was giving me and the tone in his voice, he was asking me to justify, testify... to defend and secure a reasonable case! I did my best to explain - referring to scripture and to catechesis - but he wasn't having a bar of it and persisted with his own argument (which was reasonable, but he was quite misinformed and harboured a lot of misconceptions of Catholicism). At that point, I couldn't simply "agree to disagree" without providing him with some solid evidence, so he agreed to give me his email address so I could send him some information/further reading. I did suggest to Thomas that he take the issue to prayer (with Christ) to open himself to understanding of the concept, but this was promptly rejected. I was quite shocked that a fellow Christian would reject the invitation to prayer; it seemed that he was fearful of what the response would be!

Below is the email I sent to both Thomas and JLC. I decided to send the email to both men so I could be held accountable to any misconceptions of my own (if I had any), and just so - in the event of a reply - it didn't turn into a sledging match. Feel free to comment on it and visit the links provided, but I feel that I made a good case for Marian devotion and did my utmost to as well explain why Catholics ask Mary to pray for our own intentions. It might be worth mentioning that to this day, since sending the email (dated May 13, 2009), I have not yet received reply.
* * * * *

Good evening Thomas and Johnny,

First of all I would like to thank you both for the discussion we had this evening. I walked away from the evening further convicted and affirmed in my own beliefs and practices, and inspired, Johnny, by what you had spoken about. I had the unfortunate experience earlier in the day of dealing with a student of mine that had made a comment about a particular ethnic group; an ethnic group that I myself had ancestry in. I rebuked this student's words/behaviour lovingly, and thankfully he is now aware of the ramifications making such comments could have. So again: thank you, Johnny, for making yourself available to speak to us as a group this evening. I have certainly walked-away knowing a lot more and with my eyes opened wider to the heart-felt desires of our kids to feel genuinely loved and accepted.

Thomas, I couldn't help but get the feeling that your questions about the Catholic devotion to Mary (Mother of Christ) and why we ask her to pray for us, were more interrogative than inquisitively-based. There is a difference. I acknowledge that we have been taught differently and you may disagree based-upon what is said in scripture, or your own perceived understanding of it. I have to admit that I was quite shocked when you quickly rejected the suggestion/encouragement in offering a prayer to Jesus Christ in seeking an understanding of why your brothers (sic.) in Christ offer their prayers through Mary the Mother of Jesus Christ. I would ask that if you felt completely justified in what you have read and understood through the inspired Word of God, then what do you have to lose in offering a simple prayer to Jesus, asking a harmless question of him? Do we not offer our prayers to the Lord in times of doubt and when we seek a greater understanding of why things are? If your original intention was to truly understand more of Catholic practices, then why the vehement rejection of the suggestion, which I offered out of a love inspired by Christ, to make a prayer to help allow yourself to understand?

I'll ask for both your pardons at this point because from here there'll be a great wall of text and links, and I felt quite strongly in presenting it to you both because it is in learning and understanding that we come to a peaceful acceptance. John, you yourself said tonight that hatred stems from fear, and fear stems from the unknown; what we don't understand. Thomas, I'm not for a moment implying that you hate what we Catholics practice (I can see that you do disagree with it, however), but as I promised (and I am a man of my word), I will provide for you scriptural reference(s) that show that Marian intercession (offering prayers through Mary, Mother of Christ) is acceptable.

First of all, this is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states on Marian Mediatrix (Mary as intercessor):

"Mary's function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power. But the Blessed Virgin's salutary influence on men . . . flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on his mediation, depends entirely on it, and draws all its power from it." "No creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer; but just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by his ministers and the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is radiated in different ways among his creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source." CCC 970

And on the role of Mary as Spiritual Mother of all Christians...

"Thus the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross. There she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, joining herself with his sacrifice in her mother's heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim, born of her: to be given, by the same Christ Jesus dying on the cross, as a mother to his disciple, with these words: "Woman, behold your son" John 19:26-27." - CCC 964

So now that that's cleared-up, here come the links. I will caution you: some of these links come from websites that may be quite zealous in nature, so I would ask that you dismiss any passive-aggressive conjecture. Also, I would encourage you to read everything because, Thomas, you yourself expressed a desire to "understand" why this is something Catholics do. I'm not asking you to agree with it, and by doing so I am not encouraging debate; you'd probably guess by now it's not something I will concede loss of argument to, so I'm sure we can "agree to disagree".

Would Christ Deny the Intercession of his own Mother? http://home.inreach.com/bstanley/queen.htm
Why Pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary? http://home.inreach.com/bstanley/marypr.htm
Veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary http://home.inreach.com/bstanley/ven.htm
Do Catholics 'Worship' the Blessed Virgin Mary? http://home.inreach.com/bstanley/worship.htm
The Early Christians Speak on Mary http://www.catholicapologetics.info/apologetics/general/ChristiansMry.htm
Common Sense Mariology Mary in the New Testament http://www.catholicapologetics.info/apologetics/general/mariology.htm
Marian Mediatrix (Mary as Intercessor) http://www.ourladyweb.com/mary-defended.html#6
Biblical Evidence For Invocation of Angels For Intercessory Purposes http://www.chnetwork.org/forum/mary-and-the-saints/biblical-evidence-for-invocation-of-angels-for-intercessory-purposes/

Further reading:



Thomas, I hope this information will help with your understanding of this Catholic practice. It is something I personally hold very dear and the relationship Catholics have with Mary, Mother of Christ, is a unique blessed relationship. Mary is also known as the "first disciple" because it was she who knew before Christ chose the twelve, of his divinity and Messianic role. It is through Mary, by the power of the Holy Spirit, that Christ entred the world; it was through Mary that others first learned of Christ's divinity and where first Christ's disciples first put their faith in him (the wedding at Cana, John 2:1-11); and it is through Mary that many may come to know Jesus Christ, the Living Word. As implied earlier: Mary does not interfere or diminish the mediation between Christ and the Heavenly Father; Mary is not used as a "replacement" by Catholics for Christians to come to know and develop a relationship with Jesus Christ and the Heavenly Father, but those who desire may come to Christ through his mother. No Catholic is ever "forced" to pray to Mary in order for her to intercede on our behalf, but we do acknowledge the power of intercessory prayer, of which all prayers are heard and answered by Jesus Christ and the Heavenly Father.

Peace be with you both.

A brother in Christ,

Stephen Spiteri

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